POSTSCRIPT / July 17, 2007 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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RA 9262 protects both abused & abusive women

CASE STUDIES: We have a three-year-old law, RA 9262, protecting the interests of battered wives and their children and giving substance to the equality of the sexes. Well and good.

But now some of the menfolk hit by the “Anti-Violence Against Women and Their Children Act of 2004” complain that the law is skewed against the male partner as even abusive women are favored.

There was this seaman, for instance, faithfully sending dollars to his wife. She was not communicating, because, he learned later, she was having an affair. One day the car he bought when he was still single figured in an accident while being driven by his wife’s paramour. When he refused to reconcile and live with his wife upon his return, she sued under RA 9262. The court issued a protection order and the seaman lost all his properties registered under his wife’s name. He was even ordered to surrender his car to her.

In another case, a woman colluded with her live-in partner’s children from a prior marriage to partition for themselves the properties while the man was away serving sentence in prison. Soon after his return, the woman abandoned him and applied for a protection order by alleging physical and psychological violence. The woman then used the court order to try to evict him from his own residence without hearing.

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BROAD TERM: Part of the problem is the law’s failure to distinguish between the really violent man and the ordinary husband or live-in partner quarreling with a woman.

“Violence against women” as defined by RA 9262 is any act or a series of acts resulting or likely to result in physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering, or economic abuse. The woman could be a wife, former wife, or a woman with whom the person has or had a sexual or dating relationship, or with whom he has a common child.

The broad definition covers practically any stormy relationship that a man may experience in his dealings with women.

Violent or not, men should be careful to hold their tongue or keep their purse open lest they could be held liable for “psychological violence” or “economic abuse.”

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WHAT’S ABUSE?: “Psychological violence” includes acts or omissions causing or likely to cause mental or emotional suffering of the victim. Examples are intimidation, harassment, stalking, damage to property, public ridicule or humiliation, repeated verbal abuse and marital infidelity.

A man may be exposing himself to a possible suit whenever he vigorously disagrees or quarrels with his wife, or raises his voice. She might just complain of mental or emotional distress.

“Economic abuse” refers to acts that could make a woman financially dependent. Samples: Withdrawal of financial support, deprivation or threat of deprivation of financial resources or the use of property owned in common, destroying household property, and controlling the conjugal money.

A man cannot even withhold support for the extravagant spending of the wife without running the risk of being sued.

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MISTRESSES: Even mistresses are protected. This is because “sexual relations” under the law refers even to a single act which may or may not result in the bearing of a common child.

“Dating relationship” refers to a situation wherein the parties live as husband and wife without the benefit of marriage or are romantically involved over time and on a continuing basis in the course of the relationship.

If a man diverts his earnings for the lavish upkeep of his paramour, he better sustain the arrangement. Otherwise, he would have made the mistress “financially dependent” in violation of the law.

The consequences are harsh. A man could lose all rights to his property. The wife or live-in partner can simply allege that she had suffered physical, psychological or economic abuse from the respondent.

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OWNER EVICTED: Under the rules, the court may then issue a Temporary Protection Order based only on the one-sided application of the supposed victim. The TPO may direct the removal or exclusion of the respondent from the residence of the offended party.

Since, in many cases, the parties live together under the same roof, the man is therefore banned from his own home without benefit of a hearing.

He can only be heard on the issue of whether or not the TPO should be made into a Permanent Protection Order. While the hearing is conducted for that purpose, however, he must suffer the loss of his property.

The TPO is valid for 30 days, but must be renewed for the same period every time it expires if no PPO has been issued.

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AMEND THE LAW: Under the rules, a man can be excluded from his home regardless of who owns the property. The same applies to the possession of cars or essential personal effects, which may be awarded to the supposed victim.

A maid, btw, may apply for a TPO or BPO by alleging that she has suffered from sexual abuse at the hands of her male employer. She can bar the employer from his own house where the maid lives by the nature of her work.

In the case of automobiles, if a man allows the use of a family car to his mistress for a prolonged period, and the latter files a case under RA 9262, neither the man nor his legitimate family can seek recovery of the vehicle.

Once a PPO is issued, its implementation cannot be suspended even on appeal.

The purpose of RA 9262 may be laudable, but the letter of the law should be equal to its spirit.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 17, 2007)

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